Gmail Tip: Only Show Labels with Unread Mail

Image of Gmail Label IconHere’s a way to clean up your Gmail interface and never miss filtered messages.

Gmail is a powerful, free “command center” for managing not only a Gmail email address, but also other email addresses which forward to a single account.

One tool very popular with Gmail users is the “Label” function, which is essentially like having folders where your mail is stored.

The benefit with labels, however, is that more than one label may be applied at a time to an email message, unlike a folder in traditional programs, which is a “container” for an email message.

The problem with labels, like folders, is that when you have dozens of them for filing away email messages, it can clutter your screen and make it hard to pick out individual labels from the list. This is even more troublesome when you have filters which sort unread mail directly into labels, skipping the inbox entirely.

(This is how some people make sure they never miss Tuesday Tactics Newsletter! Rather than letting it get lost in their list of inbox messages, they have a filter sort it into a special label called “Tuesday Tactics.” This way, they can read the newsletters later, at their leisure.)

Most people don’t realize that Gmail has a handy feature: You can HIDE labels UNLESS they have an unread message in them! This means that only labels with unread messages will show up on your Gmail web interface. By using this feature, you only have to pay attention to labels which are applied to unread messages.

You can control this feature on a label-by-label basis. Simply click the icon next to a label and select the setting under “In label list:” “Show if unread.”

When you do this, the label will only appear in your list if it contains an unread message. Once you READ the message, or mark it “read,” the label will disappear. Note, this doesn’t delete the label, it just keeps it out of view until you need to see it again.

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